Planning for the future: What cabinetmakers should consider
June 30, 2017 | 3:00 pm CDT
Matt Krig, CMA president

Here it is 2017, yet I have no flying car and sit in more traffic than I ever have before. I’m not sure why nobody planned for all these cars on the road; surely, there must have been some indicator somewhere along the way.

I guess I could say the same about my company; shouldn’t robots have replaced a few humans by now? Maybe not this year, but it’s probably not far off. In fact, we are on the cusp of some of the most amazing changes in our industry that we will see in our lifetimes. We are in a new industrial revolution, where the rising costs of overhead and labor continue to be dominating issues.

I recently attended the Stiles Executive Briefing Conference in Detroit. On a tour of Fanuc robotics, we saw an array of standardized robot chassis integrated to perform specific tasks with unbelievable accuracy and unwavering redundancy. Seeing the tasks performed let me know in the next few years these robots will be as common as the CNC is in the cabinet shop. These versatile robots will likely create a similar upward trajectory as for those who were early to adopt CNC technology back in the early days of DOS and tape reading machines.

Along with the CNC, the dynamics of the industry are changing quickly – faster than most can keep up with. Revolutionary new assembly methods are challenging the age-old accepted methods such as dadoes, screws, nails, dowels and glue. Not all that long ago we added a CNC horizontal bore and dowel machine and a small case clamp. How long will that even be relevant? The point I’m trying to make is how much active planning are you doing to keep up, or is your plan to fall behind? Going to the big shows and reading industry magazines is a start, but it’s going to take something more to stay ahead of the curve and remain relevant. What’s your plan to capitalize on the next manufacturing revolution and where will you go to get this information?

We are not exactly hiring a programmer for a robot, at this time, but we are definitely planning for when that day comes and searching out the schools that are offering the best programs and putting out qualified people, as well as questioning how any capital equipment could integrate into a robotic workcell.  I’m looking forward to the discussion changing from what brand of CNC are you running, to how many robots do you have and do you have on-site programmers?

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